Global Health

Mosquito season is just getting underway. And many parts of the country have mosquitoes that could potentially transmit Zika.

Health officials expect to see cases here in the next few weeks. So we decided to figure out who needs to break out the bug spray and what other precautions they should take.

By now, you've probably heard that pregnant women — and those trying to get pregnant — face the biggest danger when it comes to Zika. The virus can cause devastating brain damage in fetuses at any point during a pregnancy.

More Low-Income Kids Now Have Health Coverage

May 13, 2016

Bolstered by the federal health care law, the number of lower-income kids getting health coverage continues to rise.

Amir Attaran, a professor in the School of Public Health and the School of Law at the University of Ottawa, isn't afraid to take a bold stand.

He has written a commentary for the Harvard Public Health Review, published this week, with the headline, "Why Public Health Concerns for Global Spread of Zika Virus Means that Rio de Janeiro's 2016 Olympic Games Must Not Proceed."

A body mass index under 25 is deemed normal and healthy, and a higher BMI that's "overweight" or "obese" is not. But that might be changing, at least when it comes to risk of death.

The body mass index, or BMI, associated with the lowest risk of death has increased since the 1970s, a study finds, from 23.7, in the "normal" weight category, to 27, which is deemed "overweight."

Kimberly Richardson has never gotten a flu shot. Since she's healthy and considers the seasonal vaccines a "best-guess concoction" of the viruses expected to dominate, the northern California gym teacher and mother of two says she didn't want an "injection of something that may or may not keep me healthy in the long run."

How A Cancer Drug Has Saved People From Going Blind

May 6, 2016

Ten years may not seem like a long time, but in my field, ophthalmology, it has made the difference between going blind and still being able to drive.

Evidence is mounting that Prince may have died of a drug overdose. While the medical examiner hasn't yet released the results of the autopsy and toxicology scans in this case, opioid overdose in middle age is all too common.

In 2013 and 2014, according to the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people ages 45 to 64 accounted for about half of all deaths from drug overdose. Prince died on April 21 at his home and music studio, Paisley Park, in Minneapolis. He was 57.

Felipe Dana / AP Photo

The first case of the Zika virus has been reported in King County. It's the third case of Zika in Washington state. Officials are not concerned about an outbreak in the Pacific Northwest, but more cases are expected.

The King County case involved a man in his forties who recently traveled to the country of Colombia. That's one of the countries where Zika is actively spreading, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the past 12 years, the U.S. has spent more than $1.4 billion funding abstinence programs in Africa. They're part of a larger program — called the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief — aimed at stopping the spread of HIV around the world.

Many health officials consider PEPFAR a success. It is credited with giving lifesaving HIV drugs to more than 5 million people and preventing nearly 1 million babies from getting HIV from their mothers.

Some people addicted to oxycodone and other opioids are now turning to widely available diarrhea medications to manage their withdrawal symptoms or get high.

The results can be dangerous to the heart — and sometimes fatal — warn toxicologists in a study recently published online in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

On Jan. 10, a healthy 49-year-old man came down with headaches and blurry vision. He was participating in the test of an experimental drug that might help dull nerve pain, and it was the fifth day in a row that he'd taken the medicine.

The symptoms were serious enough to land the man in the hospital. Despite the fact that he was experiencing stroke-like symptoms, five other healthy volunteers received a sixth dose of the experimental medicine at the highest dose used in the study the next morning.

The mosquito-borne Zika virus has sparked a debate about abortion in both Latin America and the United States.

The virus has been directly linked to a birth defect that results in an abnormally small head and brain damage. In Latin America, where many countries have strict bans on abortion, some citizens and government officials are asking whether such bans should be reconsidered, at least in infected mothers.

Though it's the world's top infectious killer, tuberculosis is surprisingly tricky to diagnose. Scientists think that video gamers can help them create a better diagnostic test.

An online puzzle released Monday will see whether the researchers are right. Players of a Web-based game called EteRNA will try to design a sensor molecule that could potentially make diagnosing TB as easy as taking a home pregnancy test. The TB puzzle marks the launch of "EteRNA Medicine."

Hoping to keep your mental edge as you get older? Look after your heart, a recent analysis suggests, and your brain will benefit, too.

A research team led by Hannah Gardener, an epidemiologist at the University of Miami, analyzed a subset of data from the Northern Manhattan Study, a large, ongoing study of risk factors for stroke among whites, blacks and Hispanics living in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City.

When it comes to reversing the obesity epidemic, there have been glimmers of hope that the U.S. might be making headway, especially with young children.

Over the past decade, states have passed laws intended to help women understand the results of their breast cancer screening mammograms if they have dense breasts. But those notifications can be downright confusing and may, in fact, cause more misunderstanding than understanding.

Having HIV — or getting treatment for it — speeds up the aging process by about five years, on average, scientists report in a new study.

The findings, published in the journal Molecular Cell, fit with what doctors have seen in clinics: HIV-positive people tend to get hit earlier in life with age-related diseases, such as osteoporosis, heart disease and dementia.

Wouldn't it be great if the world could get rid of malaria altogether?

We've got a long way to go. Last year, there were about 214 million cases and 438,000 deaths from the mosquito-borne disease.

But just in time for World Malaria Day, there is some good news on the malaria front.

It's been nearly two years since the Department of Veterans Affairs came under fire for the amount of time veterans had to wait to see a doctor. The agency scrambled to find a fix, including allowing vets the option of seeing a private doctor via a program they call Veterans Choice.

How do you help someone who is at risk of suicide?

That's a question that haunts the people of Greenland, the country with the highest known rate of suicide in the world and the subject of a special NPR report this week. The rate is about 80 per 100,000, and the group at highest risk is young Inuit men.

But it's a question that anyone, anywhere, might ask. Every year, about 1 million people kill themselves worldwide; preventing suicides is an issue every culture deals with.

Denise Johnson works two jobs, but neither of them offers health insurance to part-timers like her. She signed up for a marketplace plan this year, but for routine medical care Johnson still goes to the free clinic near her home in Charlottesville, Va.

The problem is her plan's deductible of at least $1,000. She can't recall the precise figure, but it doesn't really matter. "It's absolutely high," said Johnson, 58. "Who can afford that?" She struggles to pay her $28 monthly premium.

When it comes to getting old, some of us are a lot better at it than others. If I'm going to live to be 95 I would much prefer to be healthy, cogent and content. So I want to know the secrets of the healthy and very old.

Fortunately, scientists are starting to figure that out, "The good news is that there's a lot we can do about it," says Dr. Luigi Ferrucci, a geriatrician and scientific director at the National Institute on Aging. He wants to see more and more people in that state of "aging grace."

The tiny Samoan islands have among the highest rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in the world — and diet and weight-related health issues have been rising in these Pacific nations since the 1970s. Now 1 in 3 residents of American Samoa suffers from diabetes.

Residents of Flint, Mich., may tell you lead is a serious menace, but for most of the last 5,000 years, people saw lead as a miracle metal at the forefront of technology.

"You can think about lead as kind of the plastic of the ancient world," says Joseph Heppert, a professor of chemistry at the University of Kansas. He says it was because lead is easy to melt — a campfire alone can do it. Unlike iron, lead is malleable.

White House Says It Will Cut Ebola Funding To Address Zika

Apr 6, 2016

Top officials with the Obama administration said Wednesday that they'll redirect $589 million toward the Zika virus response. Most of that money was to be used to deal with Ebola virus.

Almost two months ago, the Obama administration requested $1.9 billion from Congress to respond to the Zika threat.

"But Congress has yet to act," Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in a news conference. "In the absence of congressional action, we must scale up Zika preparedness and response activities right now."

California's dental health system for the poor is dysfunctional, according to a report by a bipartisan oversight commission.

A more vivid description comes from Pedro Nava, the commission's chairman: "In California we have kids' teeth rotting out of their heads," he says. "That's utterly inexcusable."

For Erin Moore, keeping her son's cystic fibrosis in check requires careful monitoring to prevent the thick, sticky mucous his body produces from further damaging his lungs and digestive system.

Moore keeps tabs on 6-year-old Drew's weight, appetite, exercise and stools every day to see if they stray from his healthy baseline. When he develops a cough, she tracks that, too.

Talking about money is never easy. But when doctors are reluctant to talk about medical costs, patients' health can be undermined.

A study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs explores the opportunities that are often missed in the exam room.

Editor's note: This post was originally published on March 28 and has been updated to reflect the announcement from the World Health Organization terminating the "Public Health Emergency of International Concern regarding the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa." WHO notes that "all three countries have now completed the 42 day observation period and additional 90 day enhanced surveillance period since their last case that was linked to the original chain of transmission twice tested negativ

Funny how feelings about sleep change over the years. Many children fight bedtime and are still getting up once or more during the night well into childhood. Meantime, adults often feel they can never get enough sleep and, if they're anything like me, have vivid fantasies about napping.

Now a study suggests that parents' own sleep quality may bias how they perceive their child's sleep issues.

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